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Duke updates 'Duke-supported' domestic and international student travel guidelines

Duke will continue to suspend Duke-supported international travel unless considered “essential” and consider requests for domestic travel that is “necessary and reasonable,” according to a Wednesday email to undergraduate, graduate and professional students from Gary Bennett, vice provost of undergraduate education and Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost of student affairs.

The email attributed the new guidelines to decreasing COVID-19 cases in the Duke community.

Bennett and McMahon wrote that in reviewing travel requests, Duke will consider “the trip’s educational or academic purpose, the student’s vaccination status, the destination and duration of the trip and other relevant factors in making decisions.” Travel requests can be approved as presented, approved with required changes or denied.

In determining whether travel is essential, Duke considers several factors, such as the degree to which a significant academic endeavor will be “permanently unable to proceed” or “significantly impeded” without travel; whether the travel is essential for a senior thesis; whether the travel is related to “vital COVID-19 relief efforts;” or whether the student can realistically or viably work remotely. 

There are also health factors involved in labeling essential travel, such as the length of the trip and number of destinations, the prevalence of COVID-19 and its various strains at the destinations and the risk mitigation strategies deployed by the traveler and hosts.

“Necessary and reasonable” domestic travel also depends on similar factors. The travel must be necessary to carry out a “reasonable obligation” or “reasonably important activity” in a timely manner, it cannot be postponed or revised without significant financial losses or added costs or the travel is related to COVID-19 efforts. Travelers must be fully vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption.

Duke’s current travel suspension, which does not allow travel outside the United States for undergraduate students, which remain in place until Aug. 8. Duke units may not include travel for undergraduate students in programs for summer 2021.

Students who wish to travel within Durham County should contact the Expanded Student Programming Committee. For international or domestic travel, students should contact their “Travel Contact” within their school or institute. Undergraduates in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences should submit the online travel request form.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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